Wrongfully returned to SHU: Maximum security is no place for rehabilitation

by Shavougue A. Mason

Please allow me to begin by paying respects to all those who participated in and supported the hunger strikes, both outside and behind enemy lines. I also want to pay homage and offer my condolences to the families of the brave men who gave the ultimate sacrifice for the cause and struggle of shining a spotlight on the inhumane and unjust treatment of the undercaste human beings who exist unseen in America, the prisoners. I applaud the brave men and women who took time out of their lives to stand up for the rights of a class of human beings who are grossly overlooked and forgotten by the majority of society, except those who truly love them.

Pelican-Bay-official-guides-media-tour-of-SHU-by-LA-Times-300x200, Wrongfully returned to SHU: Maximum security is no place for rehabilitation, Abolition Now!
The Short Corridor – or D Unit in the Pelican Bay SHU – was so isolated, shut off from the world, that on a rare press tour on Aug. 17, 2011, during the first mass hunger strike to abolish it, the reporters were denied access. Yet that is where the organizers of the record-breaking strike were housed, the people they most wanted to hear from. – Photo: Los Angeles Times

As a newly assigned CDCr [California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation] prisoner to the Pelican Bay D-Unit (Short Corridor), under the guise that it is no longer the core of the SHU but is now a general population (GP) Level II facility, I am compelled to give the Bay View, its readers, and the advocates who supported the prisoners, the hunger strikes and the ensuing litigation against the activities of CDCr at Pelican Bay SHU Short Corridor (D-Unit).

After the court order to shut down D-unit, CDCr administration has implemented a scheme to get around the court order by housing general population prisoners (Level II) in a SHU (Security Housing Unit) that is designed for maximum security and only allows for movement that is grossly restricted. The implementation of this scheme by CDCr and CCPOA [California Correctional Peace Officers Association] to refill these housing units, was only to receive the multi-millions of dollars Pelican Bay lost with its closure.

They are housing GP Level IIs here but still subjecting us to the exact same policies and culture as a SHU prisoner. For example, the Allowable Property Schedule 3190(b)(1) is not being adhered to, prior correspondence approvals are being rescinded without reason, razors and pens are not being allowed, metal watches are not being allowed, and we’re having to be escorted everywhere, only not cuffed.

Here’s CDCr-CCPOA’s scheme: “If we leave the cell and pod doors open, have no tower CO (correctional officer) until 10 p.m., shut down the program at 11 p.m., keep them single cell for now, have no real recreation yard up and running but tell the prisoners we’ll build one in two to three years, and offer numerous programs and jobs that aren’t yet up and running, the public won’t know the difference.”

Pelican-Bay-SHU-The-Morgue-art-by-Michael-David-Russell-web-228x300, Wrongfully returned to SHU: Maximum security is no place for rehabilitation, Abolition Now!
“Pelican Bay SHU: The Morgue” – Art: Michael D. Russell, C-90473, HDSP C2-122, P.O. Box 3030, Susanville CA 96127. Michael was housed in the SHU for many years and penned many depictions of how torturous isolation feels.

Consequently, the public doesn’t know that GP Level IIs are now being restricted as if we are in a SHU or back on the Level IV yards which we worked so hard at positive programming to get off of, and are being subjected to the same culture and mindset that is so ingrained in the staff here at PBSP Level II SHU.

By CDCr-CCPOA re-opening the Short Corridor as a GP Level II, they figured out the way to get the multi-millions of dollars to flow back into D-Unit at the beginning of the 2017-2018 fiscal year. I and 22 other prisoners from CMC-West and Solano were the first to arrive. Shortly after, 25 more prisoners were brought from Soledad and Centinela to begin filling up Unit 3.

I ask all prison activists and the Prisoner Human Rights Movement to monitor the actions taken by CDCr-CCPOA in re-opening the D-Unit Short Corridor under the same culture, policies and mentalities of the old SHU. As a Level II SHU prisoner, I ask that you continue to advocate and fight with us as we hold Warden C.E. Ducart and his subordinates accountable to discharge their public service duties and responsibilities in a professional, transparent, and humane manner.

This is not a GP Level II, regardless of CDCr-CCPOA labeling it as such; this is a Level II SHU with enormously less freedom of movement, exercise and programming than any other GP Level II within CDCr. The majority of the prisoners who were involuntarily brought here were taken from facilities where there was programming and placed in a SHU-designed environment in which jobs, programs or an adequate exercise yard are not up and running.

This is not conducive to the completion of programs that have been required by the Board of Parole Hearings (BPH). I was told, “The transfer is for departmental needs,” but with the passage of Prop 57, the need of the department, based on the public’s view, is for prisoners to positively complete programs, educate themselves, garner work experience, acquire vocational skills and obtain life skills from required self-help groups in order to successfully reintegrate into society upon their release – as we are told at DOC hearings by the BPH.

As a lifer, I’m required to receive certifications in two to three vocations, attend self-help groups, such as AA, NA, CALM, restorative justice and victim awareness, get work experience, continue my college education and remain disciplinary-free. So, it is not conducive to my aspirations of reaching these required goals for CDCr-CCPOA to take me from an institution where all my BPH needs are being met in order to receive the full funding for a GP Level II in a SHU-designed environment that was shut down by court order as cruel and unusual punishment.

Pelican-Bay-SHU-view-from-inside-cell-by-CDCR, Wrongfully returned to SHU: Maximum security is no place for rehabilitation, Abolition Now!
The Pelican Bay SHU, the first prison designed as a supermax with everything configured to isolate, depress and torture all who are forced to live there, uses perforated steel instead of bars at the front of the cell to distort the view. All cells face blank walls. They are built entirely of concrete and steel. There are no windows or natural light, so when SHU rules were enforced and prisoners were held there for decades, long-time inhabitants’ skin became pale. They could never see the beautiful forests that surround the prison; in fact, they never saw any living thing, except guards and an occasional glimpse of another prisoner, but they were punished for any kind of communication. – Photo: CDCR

Further, the administration of PBSP Level II SHU telling us to “be patient and give them time to evolve, and within six months to a year all the programs should be up and running” is absurd. I do not have six months to a year to sit around and do nothing as pertains to meeting the requirements of the Bureau of Parole Hearings at my initial Board hearing.

Further, a facility that was designed for maximum security and restricted movement can never be a place for maximum rehabilitation, as it was never designed for rehabilitation, but for security.

If CDCr Secretary Scott Kernan truly wants to “change CDCr employees’ attitudes as he tries to alter a culture that pits officers against inmates and outsiders,” he should start by requiring all wardens and their staff to follow the laws of Title 15 and not allow arbitrary enforcement of underground rules and policies just because this is Pelican Bay. In order to change culture, one must change thinking; and the thinking of the officers here will not change without training and transparency.

By transparency I mean public oversight. There needs to be an outside entity that is not connected to the CDCr or the CCPOA to oversee compliance in Pelican Bay Level II SHU, so that it may truly become a GP Level II facility.

The Short Corridor (D-Unit) having been shut down by court order only to re-open as a Level II SHU, with the exact same officers, with the exact same mentality, is not a move to change the attitudes of CDCr employees or the culture here. It was only to restart the flow of multi-millions of dollars, job security and for the CCPOA to receive the monthly dues it gets from its members, the correctional officers.

As a prisoner, the 13th Amendment defines us as slaves! The Emancipation Proclamation, from which it is derived, clearly was only to take the ownership and profitability out of the hands of certain individuals, only to place ownership and profitability in the firm grasp of the federal government and the states!

Thinking men and women of the United States of Amerikkka, don’t allow the powers that be to pull the wool over your eyes. Recognize that mass incarceration and treatment of any human or group of people of color is genocide, because if a human being doesn’t recognize another human being – because of skin color, hair texture, eye color, eye shape or socioeconomic status – as equal, having the same God-given rights to prosper and raise a family on this earth, this shows the degradation of the morals and values on which this nation was built!

In solidarity I stand,

Shavougue A. Mason

Send our brother some love and light: Shavougue A. Mason, V-80244, PBSP D1-208L, P.O. Box 7500, Crescent City, CA 95532.